Wilton Course 2: Complete!

Today was my final lesson in Wilton’s Course 2: Flowers and Cake Design. Now I’ll say this… There is no way in hell this course teaches you anything about cake design. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Maybe it’s different depending on who teaches it or something. But really, we just made some flowers each week. I usually was able to leave after the first hour. I could have stayed the second hour to practice flowers more, but as you’ve seen from pictures and from my complaining, there isn’t much space. Since we don’t have a sink really available it’s a pain to keep switching bags and filling things up. I’m constantly cleaning when I’m home. I also don’t care if I make a huge mess either in my house since I don’t have to pack things up and take them home.

The day after my final class I had to have 24 cupcakes made with ballet shoe fondant toppers. I figured since I had to have a cake ready for class, I might as well get the cupcakes baked and iced before I left that way all I had to do when I got home was make the fondant toppers.

I made the cupcakes, and then made a large batch of buttercream. I added a dash of coco powder to give a light chocolatey flavor, then tried to dye it pink. This left me with the color you’ll see below in the pictures. Almost like a mauve color (after about 12 hours, that nice colored turned brown, so don’t try to replicate it at home with coco powder kids!). The bad thing is after I iced all the cupcakes I didn’t have enough to fill and ice a cake. I had a cake in the freezer ready to go. So I said screw it. I knew the cake I was going to mess around with in class was going to go straight into the garbage so I didn’t even bring one. I had no time to make more frosting so I gave up. Oh well!

For class, we spent some time working on a reverse shell boarder and the basket weave. I think the reverse shell is actually easier than the shell boarder itself.

course2class4pic1For the reverse shell you need to alternate your direction for every shell. You build up with buttercream, then make a half heart drawing for the rest of the shell, then do the opposite for the next, and then keep going. I hope with more practice I can get the hand motions down quickly.

In the picture below if you look at the top and right side of the worksheet, you can see that I was practicing a regular shell boarder. The peaks are a bit high, but I need to practice more. In a pinch, these would be usable I think. Now I had a hard time when we worked with a shell boarders in the first Wilton course. For this class, it clicked in my head because the instructor showed how to do it quickly, and did an entire row. My friend that I take the course with just looked at me, and it clicked for her too. I wish each flower/design was demonstrated this way. But that’s beside the point.

course2class4pic2The other thing that we worked on was the basketweave technique. Below, isn’t perfect. I would have to measure it would better to make sure it was a tight weave. I’m torn about what I think about the weave. On one hand, it’s a clean look for the side of a cake and making a cake look like a basket of flowers is something very pretty to bring somewhere. On the other hand, is it outdated?

course2class4pic3This only took about 30 minutes of the class. The rest was supposed to be decorating the cakes that you brought in. Here is where I think the class should be a bit different. You’re supposed to bring in an iced cake, and a bunch of flowers. So you’ll spend over an hour putting more icing on, and placing your flowers. I guess this would make sense if you were using dummy cakes, and learning how to arrange flowers for the best kind of placement.

Since I didn’t bring a cake with me, I sat around talking about other cakes and such. I’m glad I didn’t bring one since I usually just mess around with it and throw it out. I have to look into when Course 3 is going to happen, which is fondant and gum paste. I was going to try and switch to a different location for it, but the next course for it isn’t until the fall. I have to hope the instructor does another class. Guess I’ll have to wait and see! Until then, I really should practice my flowers. Get them down pat.

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Wilton Course 2, Lesson 3: Complete!

Another day, another Wilton lesson day. Today we worked on more royal icing flowers. Again, I made my icing very stiff but between the long drive and warm classroom the icing breaks down a bit. I even mixed powdered sugar while I was there into the icing and the warmth in the room melted it more. Below is my tiny usual set up.

course2class3pic1I took a side view of the rest of the table so I can show how messy things get. There really isn’t much space. This makes me concerned about course 3 (rolling out fondant). I’m wondering how many people they take for that class since there isn’t much room. But anyway!

course2class3pic3If you look closely below, you can see one flower all the way to the left has begun to melt. The middle flower I added more powdered sugar into the mix and did it again. It held up more, but didn’t look as nice. We practiced a few more flowers after. Most of the flowers all look the same (aside from bigger ones, like roses, or lilies). Just depending how many leaves you make, and the color makes all the difference. As I write this, I am again reminded that I really need to practice all of my buttercream and royal icing flowers.

course2class3pic2We also worked on making daffodils. I was too lazy to make yellow icing and kept working with the pink. You can see below my pink attempts at them. They seem easy enough to make and you have to manipulate the petals into pointed tips as it begins to dry.

course2class3pic7The worst flower of the day was trying to make the Lily. I took a picture of the page out of the book to better explain it. You line the forming cup with foil and make the lily in the cup.

course2class3pic4Below, you can see why I kept laughing as I tried to make my own lily. It looked like a little octopus trying to escape! God, it looked ridiculous.

course2class3pic5Below is the flower my friend made. She mixed some purple and pink together and it made a nice color. She also added the stamens (non-edible). I didn’t make it that far. I didn’t want to waste stamens if I wasn’t going to save the flower.

course2class3pic6For the last and final class in Course 2, we need to bring buttercream and an iced cake with us. Along with any flowers we want to decorate our cake with.

Wilton Course 2, Lesson 2: Complete!

Another class of flowers. The instructor pointed out that the last 3/4 classes were royal icing flowers. She found it funny that the first course used fondant and gum paste but no more until Course 3. But that is beside the point. We worked on royal icing flowers today. I was a bit hesitant with this. In the past, I was not successful in keeping my icing stiff enough to hold a shape like a flower. To make sure it would work, I poured powdered sugar into it. Dumped it right in and kept going until it was actually hard to mix in the color. Only issue (as you will see in the pictures) was I drove 50 minutes to get to the class, and the classroom was very warm. The icing was stiff but the heat from the room began to melt the royal icing.

With less people in the class there was some more room to spread out. But it is still a messy class to take. Things are much easier at home (obviously). If you look close, you can see the rose I made already started to melt in the room. For the final class we’re supposed to decorate an entire cake. Not sure about that since everything melts, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes.

ImageWe’ve done the rose a dozen times now so this would be different flowers to make for once, and ones I could save. As I sit here and type this it reminds me that I really need to practice my buttercream flowers from Course 1, and really practice the ones I learned so far in Course 2. If I can master all these simple flowers it may help my in the future. Not sure why I’ve dismissed it. But anyway, not practicing right now.

The flowers below were supposed to be primerose flowers. I think the reason why I don’t like them is because I was too lazy to change my piping bags and use a pink color. I think with some work, in the right colors, and adding some yellow into the center would make it complete. We also worked on the apple blossom flower. Most of these flowers are very similar to make. Again, I need to practice more.

ImageThe pink flower on the nail was supposed to be the apple blossom.

class2pic7

The final flower for the class was the rosebud. I really liked making this one. Probably because it was the one I could actually do easily. I get so frustrated when I see other people doing the more complicated flowers with easy. But those are my own issues. But anyway, this flower was pretty easy.

ImageSo that was all we learned in the second lesson. We finished in about an hour. Simple lesson, but I really liked the rosebuds so I was pretty happy with it.

Lesson 4 Preparation: Joke’s on Me

I am bitter. It is 3AM and I am waiting for my lopsided cake to crust over so I can Viva it and go to bed. In the 10 seconds it took me to type that sentence, my dog did a champion sprint to the cake and ate a chunk out of the side. I’m not sure where my cake karma is, but it is certainly not in my kitchen right now.

To backtrack a bit, I’ve been gone all day running insane errands to prepare for the slamming my kitchen is going to take over the next 24 hours. I volunteered to make cupcakes for a local school, and I simply do not have enough time in the day. I’m also apparently overly cocky about my ability to bake. Additionally, I think things are much easier than they are for me. On a side note, I just googled the word ‘additionally’ because I’m overtired and convinced myself it wasn’t a word.

About 4 hours ago I had the brilliant idea to get my lesson 4 preparation done before I went to bed so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning. According to the lovely lesson book we have, tomorrow we need to bring in a fully leveled and iced cake, on top of about 12 different buttercream colors and flowers already made. Those buttercream and flowers are just not going to happen, but I’ll get to that later.

This should have been very simply. I had my cakes frozen for this class for three weeks. All I had to do was take it out, level it, and ice it. Yet, when I pulled out everything I needed, I noticed all my leftover icing from lesson 3. I never practiced the flowers we rushed through last week. So of course, I decided it needed to be done right away!

I’ll try and get through this part of my post here with a limited about of hostility. The following picture is of leaves! Yay leaves! This is probably the easiest thing I have ever piped. I had slight difficulty with making the leaves have a pointed tip at first, and the first dozen or so looked more phallic than leaf life (you can see some of those scattered on the practice board). To make the leaves, you use a #352 tip. Make sure the tip is held vertically and slightly above the paper/cake/whatever. Then you just release pressure and drag it away when you’re done with the leaf. Reading the instructions in the booklet didn’t really help with this. You just need to do it a few times and you’ll figure out how to make all different types of leaves. Plus, they’re leaves. I’m 90% sure if your icing is green and next to a flower, they are self explanatory regardless of how messy they look. Either way, I started off on a positive note with the leaves.

ImageI moved on to more practice. In the following picture, you can see shell practice (#21 tip), rosette practice (#18 tip), drop flower (#2D), and swirled flower (#2D). For shells, these seem to take a bit of practice to build up the muscle memory. You have to build the icing up with your tip, then release pressure and drag out the bottom, before going into the next shell. I’m not comfortable with it, but I think with practice I can get it down. The rosettes are the easiest thing. Just swirl that icing girl. Swirl away. You really can’t mess that up. I would like to make these with some royal icing and pack it away (but I’m angry at my royal icing right now). Now the drop and swirled flower I’m not happy with. As you can see in my blurry photo, they do not look great at all. I had more success with these in class last week. They seem very easy. Hold your #2D tip on the page/cake/whatever, squeeze, release, move bag away. For the swirled, turn your hand 90 degrees as you squeeze. I foresee more practice in my future.

ImageI practiced a rose with my leftover icing. This is a bad rose. Better luck next time bucko.

ImageMy final flower of the night was another attempt on the pompom flower. I have to admit, I think this is the ugliest flower I have ever seen. Maybe if done with some nice sprinkles on each layer of a cupcake I can see it, but it is just ugly. I broke out the flower nail and flower template. Used a #12 tip to build my base. Then I used a #16 dark blue icing to make long stars that went straight up. Then, I took the light blue icing with a #18 tip and made larger, long stars from the base and pulled out straight. It may be my icing, but this just turned out horrible. I say I’ll practice this again, but I doubt that. Until I see a need to actually do this flower in the future, I plan on promptly erasing this from my memory.

ImageSo I have a ton of left over icing from last week. Even after decorating cupcakes last week, and practicing tonight, I have at least a full batch of buttercream left over. For lesson 4, we’re supposed to bring in 4 different icing colors at the minimum. Now, I may regret this decision (and you may want to avoid my next blog post), but I thought it was pointless to bring in all those colors. You cannot bring in a separate container for all the colors since there is not enough room, and planning ahead and putting them in piping bags backfired for me last week when I had to use different sized tips than the couplers I had. So! Why not combine all the left over buttercream, and use it for all the decorations? Excellent idea! Ain’t it purdy? No, not really. But no one is seeing this cake except for myself, and whoever stumbles upon my hostile rants here. Why not? I’ll have more time to practice in class than worrying about coloring my icing, or running out of room. Man, I hope this doesn’t blow up in my face.

ImageI made a new batch of buttercream. I followed the directions exactly this time and whipped the crap out of it on high speed. I added 2 extra tablespoons than needed. This could be the cause of the problems I have been having with my current buttercream. It breaks all the time, and already is a soft consistency. I’ll have to check it out.

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So here we go! Below, you can see how I got ready for the cakes. I actually bought a cake board, a 16in featherweight bag, and the #789 icing tip. The instructor for the class suggest against it, but it seemed so much easier I figured I should try it. You do have to cut the 16in bag to comfortably fit the extra large tip. After that was done, I put some icing on the bottom of the cake board to hold it in place.

ImageNow it was time to break out a new toy! My cakes were defrosted, and slightly lopsided. I didn’t plan on trying to level it since they do freeze pretty flat, but they weren’t sitting on the cake board right and I wanted to make sure it was done correctly. Now, I want to point out that it is extremely easy to use the Wilton leveler.

ImageThe leveler sides right through the cake and all you need to do is keep it on the table. Somehow, I messed this up. The cakes looked all nice and even, but they were not. Either I messed up leveling it, or they were so uneven to begin with that cutting it into two pieces just made it worse. I didn’t think it was so bad (I was wrong), so I decided to ice the two pieces together with my buttercream. I saw this awesome thing on youtube where you can put the icing into some saran wrap, spin it together, then pop it into the piping bag. There is basically no clean up! So yeah, I decided 1:30AM was the best time to try this out. You can see my little ball of icing all ready to pop into a bag. Now… I didn’t think it looked tight enough… So I spun the bag again… and it opened. And icing went everywhere. I’m pretty sure I still have some in my hair. EVERYWHERE. I think this is the point I began to snap. Can you tell I have zero patience yet?

ImageOnce I got the icing into the piping bag I iced the two pieces together and stacked them. And then this shit appears. Look below. How uneven is this?! This has to be a joke. The cake wasn’t even that uneven to start. How can I possibly manage this? It looks like I planned it. A standing ovation was needed. Around this point, I was boiling. (Oh, fun. I just took my hair down and glob of icing fell on the keyboard. Awesome.)

ImageI decided to throw the other cake on top and hope for the best. It was so horrible lopsided I debated throwing it all out and decorating a blank piece of cardboard in class. Instead, I cut about an inch off around the entire cake, mixed it with some icing, and shoved it under the cake to level it. Yum, tasty.

ImageIt is one ugly looking thing, but it is as level as I am going to get it. I did use the icing tip to get the buttercream on it, and it worked amazingly well. I was pretty angry at this point, so I forgot to take pictures. I only used one batch of buttercream because this this tip, you seem to waste less. Get this tip. Seriously. Easy peasy. I was happy with this tip. I hope it serves me well in the future. Because I did a hack job on the cake, there were crumbs everywhere. I didn’t have enough icing to do a basic crumb coat, so my final cake has crumbs. So be it. The cake gods have spoken. This is just for practice right? I’m positive I will regret this and be embarrassed tomorrow in class when I pull it out, but right now so be it.

ImageIt is now 4:15AM. My feet hurt. Pandora’s “Summer Hits of the 90’s,” is the only thing getting me through this post. Banging out this angry post has calmed me down a bit. I’m sure I’ll get angry again as I go to Viva that horrible, dog licked cake and clean the kitchen. I’m just going to clean up, and worry about the rest tomorrow. We’re supposed to bring in flowers and a cake design, but I’m just going to wing it. Only person eating this cake is going to be me, and apparently my ninja-like dog.

Edit: After using the Viva method the cake (it crusted over as I wrote this post), it did not smooth out like it should have. I’m wondering if my struggles are coming from the icing itself? Maybe I should try buttercreams I used in the past.

I then tried to put the cake into my carrier. Turns out, the cake was just too big for it. So the icing is all ruined in the sides, and I had to move the entire cake which took out all the cake I had shoved under it to level it. So now I’m back to my horribly lopsided cake. Just now it is missing icing in patches. Seriously, the joke is on me right now. Where is my bed?

Buttercream Roses: Practice

With my cakes already baked for class tonight, I decided to practice my buttercream roses. We worked on them briefly at the end of the first Wilton class. I was not very successful. I spent about 20 minutes doing a few flowers. I figure it would be good to keep doing this until I get better at it.

Since I was just practicing, I used the Wilton Decorating Icing from the first class. To do the rose you need a flower nail (bottom left), a piping bag, and two tips (#12 and #104).

ImageTo start the flower, you can use a #12 tip and make a beehive that will be the base of your flower (picture below, top left). You don’t have to use the #12 to make the beehive. You could stick with the #104 tip you will be using to make the flower, and just make three circular levels with it instead. Personally, I wasn’t comfortable with this and did not like how the roses came out. It could be that my icing wasn’t stiff enough. I would try both and see what works best for you.

ImageAbove you can see my seven attempts at making buttercream roses. Some came out better than others. This is something I need to keep practicing at. 

To make the flower, I found this was the best way:

  • Make your “beehive” base with a #12 tip.
  • The first layer is at the very top of the beehive. Make one swirl around the beehive (using the #104 tip) as the bud in the center of the rose. Make sure you always keep the large opening of the #104 tip at the bottom, narrow edge at the top. Make sure you hold the bag parallel to the beehive.
  • The second layer will be the same height as the first. Make three petals. To make the petals, you will make a half circle with the peak going straight up the beehive.
  • The third layer is the same as the second. Make three petals, same height.
  • The fourth layer is the same height, but now you will make four petals.
  • Your final layer is the bottom of the rose. You will be making five petals. Make sure you tilt the piping bag out so the petals aren’t straight up and down like the previous layers. This will give the flower the “open” look.

When you are putting your petals on, you will need to twirl the flower nail instead of moving the bag. This ensures even petals.

As I type this up, I realize my directions may sound slightly alien without step by step back up pictures or a video to go with it. Next time I practice, I’ll try and make a video to post.